Maine military police unit heading to Afghanistan for a year; send-off Saturday in Augusta

Posted July 20, 2012, at 5:07 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Patrolling the streets of the state’s capital is the day job of the commander of the 488th Military Police Company, which is heading overseas for a year in Afghanistan to provide protection to U.S. and allied forces.

Capt. Eric Dos Santos is leading 122 military police officers from the Maine Army National Guard unit, which is based in Waterville with a detachment in Houlton. Dos Santos is an officer with the Augusta Police Department.

The send-off ceremony for the 488th is at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive.

“The unit’s mission is to conduct police, detainment and stability operations in order to enhance security for coalition and Afghanistan forces,” Capt. Shanon Cotta, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard, said Friday.

The Maine National Guard posted a video a month ago about the unit, nicknamed the “Guardians,” conducting training to prepare for the deployment.

“The Guardians — we’re highly motivated, ready to always jump in, do our job and do it well and come home. Bring everybody home,” Spc. Dustin Goodell says on the video, made by Spc. Jaime Lee Richardson of the 121st Public Affairs detachment.

The civilian soldiers will become active duty when they prepare to leave the states. When the 488th reaches Afghanistan, the number of Mainers serving overseas in harm’s way will nearly double.

“Today, the Maine National Guard has approximately 145 military personnel serving in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” Cotta said.

Brig. Gen. Brent M. Boyles, assistant adjutant general for the Maine Army National Guard, 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and representatives from the rest of the state’s congressional delegation have said they plan to attend Saturday’s send-off, which is open to the public.